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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Yasuzo Masumura's "Red Angel" is one of the most extraordinary and subtly erotic (yes, erotic!) war dramas ever made, and manages to be both a deeply intimate portrait of purest love and a moving statement on the idiocy of military conflict. The late Masumura, who directed the amazing "Hanzo 2: The Snare", "Blind Beast" and "Manji", brought such intelligence and depth to every film he directed, and this is perhaps his finest work. Ayako Wakao is a revelation as Nurse Sakura Nishi, a young woman in possession of enormous humanity, who ministers to the war wounded in the most intimate of ways and falls deeply in love with Dr. Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida), a disconnected surgeon whose only escape from his blood-soaked work is a nightly armful of morphine. Although the structure is simple and the tone is unrelentingly grim, the messages are powerful and heartfelt. Nurse Nishi's short relationship with an amputee soldier is one of cinema's finest passages. The scene in which she allows the solider to "make love" to her is a textbook example of adroit direction and is devastatingly emotional. Because the film is incredibly graphic at times (especially for 1966) and stark in its depictions of war atrocities, the black and white serves to keep the bloodshed from overwhelming the drama. I can not praise this shattering achievement highly enough. It is a masterpiece of humanity.
  • Extremely tough little b/w gem from director, Masumura. It's 1939 and the Japanese are fighting in China, to not very much effect. We follow the efforts of those in field hospitals desperately trying to pick up the pieces when each load of war injured is raced back from the front line. Limbs are sawn off and bullets removed, all without aesthetic but plenty of blood and screams. Amid it all our heroine struggles to recover from her early rape by patients and the requests of the desperate and dying. This movie is so well put together that it is only afterwards you wonder just how that scene where she allows the handless man to feel her with his feet or make her senior a 'man again', without it seeming incongruous within this tale of death and destruction. With the blatant misogynism, nudity, explicit surgery, bondage, drug taking and even cross dressing, not to mention the inherent criticism of the Japanese stance, it is a wonder this film got made, distributed and survived. Important and enthralling film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    An estimated twenty million Chinese and two million Japanese soldiers were killed in the second Sino-Japanese War that lasted from 1937-1945. If anyone thought for one moment that there was a glorious aspect to this war or any other, Yasuzo Masamura's Red Angel will dispel that forever. Written by Ryozo Kasahara and based on a novel by Yoriyoshi Arima, Red Angel is a powerful anti-war drama in which scenes of rape, dismemberment, drug withdrawal, disease, and suicide are graphically shown by Masamura, who spares nothing except the erotic details of lovemaking. Set in Manchuria in the early days of the conflict, the "red angel" in the film is Nurse Sakura Nishi played by Masamura regular Ayako Wakao.

    Nurse Nishi is stationed on the battlefield as a care giver but most patients, racked by loneliness and fear of impending death, see her as a sexually available woman. On her first night while making the rounds, Nishi is gang raped and held down by the group while she is sexually assaulted by Pvt. Sakamoto (Jotaro Senba). After reporting the incident to the head nurse, Nishi learns sadly that this is something she should have expected. Transferred to the front, Nishi is stationed at an army field hospital where she assists Dr. Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida), the only available surgeon in performing amputations.

    With few drugs and not enough blood available for transfusions, Okabe is forced to amputate arms and legs in hopes of saving the young men but is torn by feelings of guilt and remorse. He believes that most of the amputees would be better off dead since he knows that the Army will not let them go home because they would symbolize the idea that Japan is losing the war. Nishi pleads with Okabe to give a blood transfusion to Sakamoto, the man who had raped her during her first assignment and Okabe agrees but on the condition that Nishi comes to visit him at night. Discovering that Okabe is a man of compassion, Nishi sympathizes with his plight and begins to fall in love with him, though it cannot be expressed because the doctor is a morphine addict and is impotent.

    In one of the most heart-wrenching sequences, Nurse Nishi takes pity on Pvt. Orihara (Yusuke Kawazu) who has lost both of his arms. After pleading with the young nurse to relieve him of his sexual frustration, she takes him to a hotel where he expresses his pent-up passion but the evening proves too much for him to handle. In the final and most moving segment, a cholera attack has decimated the remaining soldiers who are surrounded by Chinese troops and as death becomes closer, Nishi and Okabe vow to make every effort to preserve their humanity even through Nishi's attempt to end Okabe's morphine addiction.

    Although there is romance in Red Angel, Masamura makes it quite evident that a normal relationship is impossible under conditions of war. His vision of war is one of hell where there is no honor or glory, only physical and emotional degradation and killing in the name of patriotism. Although Red Angel is lurid and has moments of melodrama, it is a brutally honest film that shows war without sentimentality, perhaps a reason for it remaining unreleased until Fantoma Films resurrected it on a widescreen DVD in 2006.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I took this movie out of the DVD shop more or less at random - I hadn't seen any of Yasuzo Masumuras movies before (but had read a little about him).

    I was quite simply blown away by this movie. It is incredibly beautiful and moving, and more importantly is genuinely unique to my knowledge in its approach. I know of no other movie which has linked sexuality (it is a surprisingly sensual and erotic movie) to warfare in this way. It is also incredibly rich thematically, there is enough in this movie for a few PhDs! The story is superficially quite simple. Nurse Sakura Nishi is posted to an army hospital in the Manchuran War, Japans war of aggression in China that some historians see as part of the initial states of WWII. The hospital takes a ruthless approach to the injured solders, it is a case of patch them up, and get them back to the front. The amputee cases are packed off to secured hospitals in China, so the public at home never get to see with their own eyes the result of the bitter warfare. A soldier rapes Nurse Nishi, but this is treated coldly as a minor matter by the authorities, the solder is simply packed back to the front early as a punishment. Nurse Nishi seems to treat it as part of the job.

    In a remarkable sequence, Nurse Nishi cares for an armless soldier who pines for his wife at home, but realises the military top brass will never let him return to Japan. She cares for him, and even relieves him sexually. This is where the movie comes closest to its exploitation origins, but it is handled in a very sensitive way - Masumuru shows his incredible skill and control of the material here.

    Nurse Nishi is sent to the front lines. Here she meets and falls in love with an embittered, morphine addicted doctor, Dr. Okabe. He is brutally casual with her love, knowing that they can never have a normal life together, but she slowly reaches into her humanity.

    They are both then sent to a small outpost, about to be over run by advancing Chinese Nationalist soldiers. They know they are doomed - this realisation opens them both up, and in further remarkable scenes they play with their role as 'officer' and 'nurse', as she dresses up in his uniform and orders him around. In the hands of a lesser director and actors this would be painful to watch, but again its handled beautifully and says more about the nature of the military, power exchange between men and women, and Japanese society than numerous other entire movies.

    The movie is very brutal - it will be hard to get from your mind the images of piles of amputated limbs and the despair of soldiers who know they are on a virtual suicide mission in a war they don't understand. It is relentlessly anti-war except for the end, where there is a more conventional set up of the Japanese soldiers defending bravely against overwhelming odds. The movie can be criticised for an underemphasis on the roots of the war and the brute racism of the Japanese army at the time. Also, the 'comfort women' in the movie are portrayed as Chinese prostitutes, not the sex slaves which most historians believe they were. But these are relatively minor quibbles with a movie that is relentless in its portrayal of war.

    I'd recommend anyone watching this on DVD (my version is on Yume Pictures) to see the contemporary trailer. Its pure exploitation fodder, obviously trying to get an audience who think it'll show kinky goings on in a war hospital, almost in a Carry on Nurse type way. Perhaps this is how Masumura sold it to his studio. This may also have influenced his decision on certain scenes, but there is no doubt that this movie deserves to be on any list of best war movies, or best Japanese movies.

    I don't like to use that overused term 'Masterpiece', but its unavoidable for this movie. There are other war movies as powerful, but i can't think of any that are better.
  • Red Angel is a very interesting and strange movie which could make the staunchest warmonger into a pacifist with bloody sights that might delight Mexican/American director Robert Rodriguez. A beautiful, sensual nurse named Nishi battles the 1939 war in China and her own repulsion to its inhuman violence by making love to an amputee and falling in love with a drug-addicted doctor. Be ready for the screams of surgery with no anesthetic and the sight of saws being used to cut off limbs. A little soft core, a lot of action, enough blood to make you happy the film is in black and white. Still . . . it's always worthwhile to take a look at the world through another culture's eyes.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I really enjoyed this film and strongly recommend it. However, there are two groups for which I would not recommend the film--those who do not want to see appropriate but graphic violence as well as kids. While the film is at times very sexual and violent, it did NOT seem gratuitous in the least.

    "Red Angel" occurs during the Japanese war against China and begins in 1939 as a nursing student sets out for the front. Her experiences are quite horrible at times and it does not try to sensationalize or exploit the awfulness of war. In fact, it's very sensitive and often avoids super-explicitness--particularly in a traumatic rape scene and scenes involving consensual sex--and I really appreciated how the film makers worked hard not to show too much while still making the story realistic. But, as these are NOT the best topics for young kids (no matter how well handled), I would say this is a film you might want to see WITH your teen but not with younger audience members.

    A few comments about the rape and consensual sex in the film. First, I was shocked how ill-disciplined and rather animalistic the soldiers were sometimes shown in the film. Rape and avoiding action by faking sick were NOT positive depictions of their own soldiers--and I am sure many in Japan were provoked by showing such non-heroic images. Second, the entire plot line involving the nurse having sex with a soldier who lost both his arms is fascinating--and deals with something you just don't hear about in other films. You just have to see this touching but heart-breaking portion of the film for yourself to see what I mean.

    Overall, the acting, writing and production were outstanding. What I particularly loved is how the film did not go where I expected...repeatedly. I also liked (and many will hate) that the film was NOT a happily ever after sort of thing, as WWII was NOT a happily ever after event--particularly for the Japanese. Brilliant and among the better Japanese WWII films. For an even better but far more depressing and adult film, try "Fires On The Plain"--perhaps one of the very best and most realistic war films ever.
  • ProperCharlie21 September 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    'Akai tenshi' is one of those films you see and you suddenly realise where so many strands of modern cinema have their roots. The images on the screen morph into that latest multiplex blockbuster, art-house cult or imported favourite. Here is the ancestor of the recent Japanese horror boom. There is a 'war is hell'/'madness of war' theme of a distinctly Vientnamesque cast. There's drug dependency, gang rape and there's more than a flavour of Tarantino. And this was made in 1966.

    The start is where the grotesquerie starts. This is a field hospital in a bloody war. A charnel house with en suite morgue. The doctors struggle to keep up. Buckets fill with amputated limbs, often chopped off with out anaesthetic. Worse still the sounds of a surgical knife going through a thigh followed by a bone saw through femur. And concordant with the obscenities of mass butchery, the emotional detachment of the doctors, nurses, orderlies and soldiers staffing the hospital. This is hell. It's not just the gore either. There is body horror. Multiple amputees struggle to cope with their new status. Bandaged stumps are waggled and examined by their owners. The camera doesn't flinch though the audience might.

    The only women at the hospital are the nurses and they are surrounded by large numbers of traumatised, men who've recently been trying to kill other men. Order is poorly maintained, the social structures within the hospital are on the edge of collapse. It seems gang rape of the nurses is the rule rather than the exception, something that the protagonist experience very early on in the film. Rarely is this side of men's nature put on film. Recently I can only think of '28 Days Later'. It is an important question to ask. Will groups of men always act like this? Why? Are all men are rapists, or do all women fear that they are? Unfortunately the film doesn't answer this, but is content to add in as another level of hell that Nurse Nishi must endure. She endures it rather too stoically.

    Underlying all of the horror and gore there is a strong undercurrent of sexuality. And the films seems to wear its maleness on it sleeve in this department. There are all sorts of fantasies from dark to pitch black. Cross-dressing, bondage, submission, sex with amputees, gang-rape. There is a rather richer fantasy of the woman bringing a man back to potency purely with the power of her sexuality. Nurse Nishi is a strongly sexual character and largely in charge of her own desires, except in the rape scenes. Ultimately this is an exploitation picture, but a very classy one.

    The best part of this film is just how little is shown for the impact that you get. There are one or two gratuitous shots of gore and under lifted skirts. Mostly though the horror and erotic content is implied or shot well. There is no nudity, Nurse Nishi is viewed naked in shadow or through mosquito nets. Most of the horror is in the sound, the writing of the victims on the surgical table, the struggles of a single nurse against large groups of men, or simply the word: 'cholera'. This is a disturbingly erotic and exploitative tale of sex, madness, war that will haunt you in many ways.
  • crossbow010623 August 2008
    This is the story of Nurse Sakura Nishi, who is a young army nurse sent to field hospitals in China during the Sino-Japanese war. There she sees the atrocities of war, sometimes by her own people. She has a conscience (after being raped, she reports it and that soldier Sakamoto goes back to the front. Not much later, he is wounded and she tries to save his life. It is a great scene). There are amputations at will in these makeshift hospitals at the request of Dr. Okabe, whom Nurse Nishi falls in love with. That is perfectly believable, this is a time of war. Ayako Wakao, who is a great actress, plays Nurse Nishi perfectly. Her expressions at seeing all this brutality, her reactions to it are all true to life. You can only wonder what it was like to be there, she shows you. Not for the faint of heart of course, this film is grim but very gripping. Shot in glorious black and white, it depicts the horrors of war with a little light (Nurse Nishi) for all who have experienced it. Brutal but essential.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    From the Yasuzo Masumura director of such "classics" as MANJI, BLIND BEAST, and the HANZO THE RAZOR entry, THE SNARE, comes RED ANGEL - a deep and powerful film of love, sex, obsession, and addiction amongst a war-torn back-drop.

    A young nurse is cycled between Army field-hospitals where she witnesses and experiences some pretty nasty scenes. From the general ugliness of the casualties of war, to her own bad experience of being raped by a patient - this nurse never forgets her duty, even if it means whacking off an armless amputee. She eventually falls for a morphine-addicted lead-surgeon, but this ends tragically as well...

    A far more in-depth and powerful film than the typical pinku/exploit material of the time - RED ANGEL is erotic, sad, uplifting, and grotesque all at the same time. Though there's very little nudity (which was probably done purposely as a way to keep the film from being tagged as the typical pinku sleaze-fest) - RED ANGEL still comes across as an exploit film, regardless of it's loftier aspirations - though I'm not complaining about that either. A solidly made film - fans of Masumura's other films will probably wanna check this one out...8/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Director: Masumura Yasuzo Duration: 95 minutes

    During the fifteen years in which the Pacific War was fought, the year 1939 is often considered its most brutal. Struggling with the U.S.S.R. in the north, the Imperial Army began setting its attentions south. However, as the war with China continued the Japanese Army found itself stuck in a quagmire from which it was unable to extricate itself. Red Angel tells the story of Nishi Sakura a young and pretty nurse who tries to help relieve the suffering of multitudes of soldiers. However, trying to perform her duty is not very simple not only because of the constant mortaring and gunfire from the enemy, but also because she is victimized by the depravity of the wounded soldiers. In fact, on the first night stationed at her new post she is raped by a wounded soldier while several others look on. When she reports to the head nurse the next day, she learns that she was the third nurse that the same soldier had raped. Because of his misconduct, the soldier is sent to the frontline which is basically a sure death.

    Later Nurse Nishi is sent to a hospital near the frontline and there she meets Dr. Okabe who back in Japan had once been a prominent surgeon, but who now considers himself little more than a butcher because there is little more that he can do for wounded soldiers than to amputate their arms and legs. Having worked in a relatively "stable" area before, Nurse Nishi is faced with the true carnage of war at her new position and at one point extracts 150 or 160 bullets from the bodies of soldiers in one day. Exhausted beyond belief, Nishi somehow falls in love with Dr. Okabe; he looks just like her father, but soon learns that he cannot truly love her because he is addicted to morphine. However, there are also other men who desire her, and the nurse does what she can to try to ease there suffering.

    Directed by Masumura Yasuzo, Manji, Afraid to Die, Giants and Toys, Red Angel is a quite brutal in its depictions of the mutilated forms of the common soldiery. With its detailed sounds of flesh being cut and bones being sawed through, some parts of Red Angel are very difficult to watch not because of its visuals but because of its sounds of surgery and agony. However, Red Angel is also a quite sensual film with its depictions of how love can grow even in the worst of circumstances. Filmed during a time period in which the American armies were depicted as almost invincible on film, Red Angel, while maybe not quite reaching the artistry of Kobayashi Masaki's The Human Condition series or Ichikawa Kon's Harp of Burma or Fire on the Plain, should be considered one of the better films concerning the Pacific War
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Red Angel (1966) directed by Yasuzo Masumura is just another impressive film that makes me wonder why he isn't better known outside of Japan. This is yet another powerful, subversive film that embodies what the New Wave was all about-shaking up the status quo. It was written by Ryozo Kasahara and based on a novel by Yoriyoshi Arima, Red Angel has to be counted among the great Japanese war movies of all-time. This is no simple humanistic take on WWII, within the first twenty minutes there is a rape and a graphic amputation of a leg-complete with bone chilling sawing sounds on the score. This film is not for the squeamish. Ayaka Wakao, who seems to be Masumura's muse, plays Sakura Nishi, who is sent to the Manchurian front where she learns the brutal realities of the war first hand through the rape and many amputations and bullets removed from soldiers who seem to have a 50-50 chance of survival in such conditions. She is well-meaning and a bit sensitive and feels that her complaints about the soldier who raped her got him sent back to the front early, which in this film means certain death. Later she tries to comfort a double arm amputee, who feels that he won't have that sort of comfort again, so kills himself by jumping off a roof. At another station near the front there is an outbreak of cholera among the comfort women, imagine admitting that comfort women existed! But of course they seems to be Japanese "volunteers" (but it is still hard to image them appearing in a film made today). She eventually falls in love with a well-meaning doctor, Dr. Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida), who is numbing the reality with drink and morphine. The morphine has made him impotent, but Nishi helps wean him off it so that they can a last fling before they are overrun by the Chinese army. During this sequence a young nurse Nishi has brought along, in order to protect and look after, is killed before her eyes. Nishi emerges as the lone survivor finding her lover dead on the battlefield. It is a bleak and somewhat exploitative war film that is astonishing in the fact that the studio signed off on such a dark and truthful film about the war.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    While most Japanese movie fans may be familiar with director Masumura Yasuzo's eerie "Mojyu" (AKA Blind Beast; 1969), "Akai Tenshi" (Eng. Lit. - Red Angel) is one of the director's more somber films. Set against the backdrop of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) Masumura focuses on the life of a newly transferred Japanese Army medical nurse Nishi Sakura (Wakao Ayako) and the horrors she sees and experiences as she tries to cope with the human casualties of that senseless war. As Sakura sadly narrates, on the first day of her transfer to the army hospital where she is stationed, she is brutally gang raped by wounded soldiers from the front. Her tragic life doesn't get any easier as she is soon sent to an outpost even closer to the front-line. There she sees even more horrific carnage and despair. The story gets somewhat melodramatic as Sakura's encounters various patients at the outpost (Sakura meets one of the soldiers who gang raped her months earlier but who is now on the verge of dying. Sakura also meets with another soldier who has had both his arms amputated in an explosion. He tells Sakura that he was newly married before the war and now feels that he can never face his wife again. Sakura nurtures the soldier and eventually sleeps with him out of pity of his plight). In the course of her duties Sakura befriends the stoic doctor/surgeon Dr. Okabe (Ashida Shinsuke) who was head of a hospital before the war started and is now Chief Medical Officer for the Army. Although much older than she, Sakura finds herself hopelessly in love with the doctor whom strangely reminds her of her own father who had passed away when she was a child. To escape the realities of the war, Okabe has become addicted to morphine, which he has Sakura administer. Eventually Sakura helps Okabe break this addiction and soon becomes his lover. The two lovers are soon transferred to the front-line where they have to tend to a group of cholera-infected soldiers. The village that they are held up in is soon attacked by Chinese Military forces and Okabe and Sakura say their last goodbyes before getting separated. Miraculously though Sakura survives the attack but tragically finds Okabe dead. While the film touches upon a number of exploitative elements, it is surprisingly very conservative in its handling and depictions of the more salacious aspects (there is very little nudity and the sex scenes are done tastefully and without the usual gratuitousness expected from these films). The film definitely does not condone the acts of the Japanese Military of the time and goes out of its way to show the human casualties of the conflict, often in very graphic detail. War is hell and this film hammers that point across in its depictions of the war wounded and the psychological trauma these soldiers suffer.
  • aaronable1431 August 2014
    A very underrated masterful piece of art. This is my kind of film. It analyses, dissect, and expose the human psyche. There is no good and bad in the film, you make up your mind about that. There is no unblemished hero character in the film; only ordinary people doing extraordinary actions in unique circumstances. The film illustrates the beauty of human heart. Even though the film is Japanese, it doesn't do what the traditional Hollywood films do in war films involving America; the film, in respect of the war issue is neutral. It uses the war as a background to the main concepts addressed by the film. However, the war aspect is not entirely neglected, rather it is dealt with from a neutral perspectives.